Celebrating our non-profit sector champions

Since 2016, United Way Halifax has had the honour of hosting the annual Bhayana Family Foundation Awards – which each year, recognizes seven individuals who embody the inspiration, determination, and resiliency that shape the impact of our non-profit sector in the community. We are thrilled to be part of an expanded awards program this year, recognizing 20 Invisible Champions from the non-profit sector, across Nova Scotia. Congratulations to this year’s winners!


Felicia Nadine Brown-Colley – Volunteer, East Preston Day Care Centre/Family Resource Centre

Felicia’s nominators said: if you knew Flee, you knew peace, love and happiness. Felicia passed away very suddenly on July 25, 2020, leaving behind two young sons, and leaving her community heartbroken. Felicia had a real pride and compassion for her community, and always had positive words of wisdom to share. She was an excellent listener, never judged, and had an ability to put others at ease. During COVID-19, Felicia stepped up to make deliveries, ensuring people were taken care of. She had a “get ‘er done” attitude, taking initiative whenever there was an important task that had to be done. Her smile and passion for others are deeply missed. Thank you to her nominators who took the time to share her compassion and dedication with us. She truly was deserving of this award.

Lisa Deyoung – Housing Support Shelter Manager, Viola’s Place

As her nominators call her, Lisa Deyoung is Viola’s Place Rock. A social worker with incredible empathy and understanding of those facing homelessness, Lisa has ensured that Viola’s Place operates with a housing-first, client centered approach. Her calm demeanor helps those facing a crisis deal with their uncertainty, and she puts both clients and other staff and volunteers at ease. During COVID-19, Lisa worked tirelessly to ensure the drop in volunteers and the additional health measures didn’t close their doors. They stayed open every night. Thank you Lisa, and congratulations.

Saida Gazie – Newcomers Program Coordinator, Veith House

Saida is an absolute champion for newcomers in her community. She creates and runs programs for individuals and families who are new to HRM, tirelessly providing a wide range of support and advocacy. From navigating complicated applications for residency and citizenship, to finding housing and translating important documents, Saida helps people build skills and find a sense of community through her groups and programs. But she doesn’t stop there. Saida also volunteers for several other non-profit organizations across HRM and gives up her own personal time whenever someone needs her help. She is incredibly selfless and helps her colleagues to better understand the racism and stereotypes she and others face on a daily basis. Congratulations Saida, and thank you for your commitment to your community.

Kalkidan Gebre – Director of Clinical, Women’s Wellness Within

Kalkidan is a recent graduate of Dalhousie School of Nursing, but she has already demonstrated a significant commitment to the maternal health of Black Nova Scotians. In 2019, Kalkidan Gebre organized the first ever training for Black doulas in Nova Scotia, which graduated 16 doulas. She arranged for other Black health professionals to be part of the training. As a new member of the board of Women’s Wellness Within, she leads a partnership with the IWK Health Centre to advance Black maternal health and anti-racism progress at the health centre. Kalkidan is also committed to advancing Black participation in the health professions. Congratulations and thank you Kalkidan.

Wanda Hill – Facilities Manager, YWCA Halifax

Wanda has worked for YWCA Halifax for 30 years, which in itself is worth celebrating. Often the one taking calls or negotiating with contractors after hours means she truly is an unsung hero. Everything she does in the background makes sure things run smoothly on the surface. But the care, compassion and dedication to the people she works with and serves is what really makes Wanda stand out as a champion. She is empathetic and understanding, and is committed to diversity. She values all people, regardless of their background, and is always warm and welcoming to new staff or clients. Congratulations Wanda!

Gina Jones-Wilson – President, Upper Hammonds Plains Community Development Association

Gina Jones-Wilson, or Mrs. G as the youth in her community call her, has spent over 40 years volunteering. It’s been her mission to make sure the small, African Nova Scotian community in Hammonds Plains is able to access programs and activities that that larger communities regularly access. She’s worked with youth, to help them achieve success in education and find employment. She has a close connection with the seniors in her community. She liaises with the city to address issues like housing, health care and education. Finally, she is working towards a goal of creating a recreational and cultural centre focusing on the African Nova Scotian experience. Congratulations Gina, this is well-deserved.

Myrene Keating-Owen – Executive Director, LEA Place Women’s Resource Centre

When COVID-19 isolated women living in poverty and cut them off from many of the resources they normally accessed, Myrene Keating-Owen was working hard to ensure LEA Place remained accessible. Myrene took action to ensure both staff and client safety. While staff worked remotely, Myrene ensured women could still access the Centre to send and receive important documents and access grocery and gas gift cards through their poverty relief program. Myrene continues to be a leader, instilling confidence and creativity in her staff. Congratulations Myrene.

Colleen MacIsaac – Development Committee member, the Bus Stop Theatre Co-Op

Colleen has been a dedicated volunteer for the Bus Stop Theatre for eight years, spending 5 terms on their Board of Directors and continuing to volunteer with the Development Committee. Colleen’s passion for providing space for emerging artists is evident in her commitment. She founded the non-profit organization that would take over the management and ownership of the Bus Stop Theatre, ensuring the survival of the theatre and the growth of the organization. She also has donated her time and talents as a visual artist and illustrator to help support their fundraising efforts. Thank you and congratulations Colleen.

Michelle Malette – Housing Support Worker, Adsum for Women and Children

If Michelle wasn’t involved in the homeless community in Halifax, we would see dozens more people sleeping on the street. Through Adsum for Women and Children, she goes above and beyond to find housing and change lives for women experiencing homelessness. She sees resilience and dignity with every client she works with. She also volunteers for Out of the Cold Shelter, and was instrumental in moving shelter clients to hotels during the peak of COVID-19. She is a tireless advocate for affordable housing and homelessness in Halifax, and is well-respected by her peers and the community. Congratulations Michelle.

Patricia Neves – Acting Executive Director, Nova Scotia Association for Community Living

Patricia was nominated because of her commitment to supporting and including the clients and families NSACL serves. Patricia stepped up to lead the organization during the pandemic, and continually demonstrates the values of equality, dignity and respect. She really leaned into those values when she quickly adapted their Life Transitions program to a remote program, securing funding to ensure clients had access to a tablet to continue to connect with one another. Thank you Patricia, for all that you do.

Dr. Heather Rudderham – Psychologist, Eskasoni Mental Health Services

Dr. Rudderham was nominated because of her commitment to going above and beyond for her clients, and her advocacy for th 2SLGBTQ+ community and for trans health. She inspires her colleagues to always take equity and inclusion to heart, and gives them the confidence to be the best supports possible for their clients. She also uses her voice and privilege to help others understand how the health care system isn’t meeting the needs of everyone and helps Indigenous youth and adults to better understand their trauma. Congratulations Dr. Rudderham, and thank you.

Tova Sherman – CEO, ReachAbility

Where others see only injustices and inequities, Tova sees opportunities to show a better way. Tova recognized a need to support people who face barriers to inclusion, and founded ReachAbility. She advocates on behalf of those who are marginalized and educates businesses and government agencies on diversity, equity and inclusion. By doing this she ensures it’s a win-win-win situation – for the individual, the community, and the organization. Tova leads by example in all that she does, and her leadership has motivated and inspired others to make changes in their organizations. Thank you Tova, congratulations.

Nancy Thurston – Early Years Program Supervisor, Maggie’s Place Family Resource Centre

Nancy’s nominators told us “Helping families in the community is a way of living for Nancy, not just a job.” Nancy goes out of her way to make sure families in her community get the best start, from injury prevention and car seat installations, to fun and engaging learning activities that help families grow together. Her creativity shines through in lots of ways. During the pandemic, when families were on lockdown and she was unable to meet in person, Nancy started doing story time via YouTube. She later went on to put together activity kits that families could use outside, and recorded family-friendly cooking classes, also shared via YouTube. These are just some examples of her creativity! Congratulations Nancy.


Autism Nova Scotia

People with Autism have not been able to enjoy many of the same opportunities as others have across the province. Autism Nova Scotia is working to change that. The organization develops and delivers programming for youth and adults with autism across Nova Scotia. One unique program they deliver is called Healthy Relationships, Sexuality and Autism (HRSA). The program uses sex-positive, inclusive lessons to help build healthier relationships. Autism Nova Scotia also pivoted during COVID-19 delivering virtual programming and developing resources to support their clients adjust to COVID-19 precautions. They were the first organization to develop and launch a “pandemic safe” summer camp, which other organizations were able to use as a model. Congratulations Autism Nova Scotia!

Dartmouth Seniors Service Centre

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and public health measures shut down programming, seniors were deeply impacted. The Dartmouth Seniors Service Centre adapted almost immediately. Their staff became trusted visitors who brought joy back to seniors who were isolated, bringing treats, books, magazines and smiles. They cooked for three days each week and set up their dining room to be an assembly line where they could prepare meals for their Meals on Wheels delivery. The provided one fresh and four frozen meals, ensuring their seniors were getting the nourishment they needed. And, they did something they always dreamed of – a shopping service that could pick up what their clients needed and deliver it to their door, or take clients to their appointments or even COVID-19 testing. Seniors had their basic needs met from people who they trusted, which is exactly what they needed in uncertain times. Congratulations Dartmouth Seniors Service Centre.

East Preston Empowerment Academy

East Preston Empowerment Academy supports community members with education and employability programs that user Afrocentric learning tools and resources. One highlight is their Red Seal program, which helps people working in a skilled trade to gain their Red Seal certification. Having that certification means better hours and equitable pay for work that skilled workers have been doing for years. It means a future where they can better provide for their family, train younger community members as apprentices, and have more opportunities to grow a business. They also partner with several employers, non-profits and service organizations to continually offer more opportunities to their community. Congratulations East Preston Empowerment Academy.

Game Changers 902

Game Changers 902 is a volunteer organization made up of three community activists: Kate MacDonald, Derico Symonds and Trayvone Clayton. Together, they are making space for conversations about racism and Black Lives Matter, and leading a movement to a more equitable community where Black and African Nova Scotians are not experiencing discrimination. They have hosted multiple anti-racist, anti-oppression and Black mental health workshops to educate white folks and allies who want to support and uplift the Black and African Nova Scotian communities. They have hosted demonstrations and actions and have built a network of professionals and organizations who can support and provide information to black folks in Nova Scotia. Thank you for your critical work, and congratulations to Game Changers 902.

Halifax Refugee Clinic Association

For 20 years, the Halifax Refugee Clinic have opened their arms to refugee claimants and non-status migrants, welcoming them as valued, respected, and full members of our community. Individuals and families from over 60 countries have taken advantage of the clinic’s barrier-free English classes, no-cost legal services, and settlement programs. As a result, the Halifax Refugee Clinic has been recognized as a leader across the country, with more positive decisions for clients, meaning they can live and grow and become part of our community here. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinic ensured their clients were able to have access to important health information and did telephone check ins and in-person drop offs of technology, grocery and gas cards and masks and sanitizer. Congratulations to the Halifax Refugee Clinic.

Public Good Society of Dartmouth

As the public health directives of the COVID-19 pandemic caused programs to move online, the digital divide became more apparent than ever. The Public Good Society of Dartmouth stepped up with a new and innovative solution to ensure community members weren’t left behind. Partnering with non-profits and community organizations, they launched the GEO Project. GEO Project provided home internet services and hardware – computers, webcams and even headsets – so that those who can’t afford them in the community can access important services, resources, school work and peer support that they need. Each partner connected to the project played a different role in making sure vulnerable populations had services and support. Now the Public Good Society is sharing their model for others to replicate elsewhere. Congratulations!

Tri- County Women’s Centre

Tri-County Women’s Centre is available to support women in a variety of ways. They advocate for housing, address poverty, are part of a sustainable food system, provide counselling and services for victims of sexual violence and identify necessary changes to the legal system so that it can better support women. They host a health clinic for women, and are working towards establishing a PRIDE health clinic. Their staff are dedicated to meeting women where they are, whether that’s virtually, meeting them in one of their multiple locations or in a public place, and offering transportation so that the cost isn’t a burden. Thank you for your service, and congratulations.